Company Spotlight: The Bridge Cafe

Breakfast burritos, sandwiches, salads and soups. Oh, the delicious soups.

“I make all my soups from scratch,” said Tony Bridges, owner of the Bridge Cafe in Boise, Idaho. “Everyone should try my mulligatawny.”

Tony Bridges, owner of the Bridge Cafe

After 12 years and two previous locations, Tony and his family-run business recently landed in the tunnels of the Len B. Jordan building where he serves homemade meals to patrons from the surrounding Capitol block.

“The location and our prices make it easy for our customers,” said Tony. “I try to make this their home kitchen.”

Slicing, dicing and stirring his way through the kitchen at Bridge Cafe, it’s evident that Tony has a rich history of culinary experience and training. What’s not as evident are the hurdles Tony has overcome to run a successful restaurant.

“It’s called Stargardt,” Tony explains. “There’s a small pinhole in my retina. I have to look slightly to the side to focus on things and see them clearly.”

In Idaho, visually impaired entrepreneurs have access to helpful resources through the Business Enterprise Program offered by the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. According to Program Supervisor Corey Bresina, the purpose of the program is three-fold: to provide opportunities for visually impaired individuals who have an interest and aptitude for operating a facility, to demonstrate alternative techniques for coping with visual impairment, and to educate the public regarding the ability of those individuals to independently operate a business.

“I don’t know if I would get this opportunity in other states,” Tony said. “I appreciate the opportunity I have in Idaho.”

Tony emphasizes that he and his family work really, really (really!) hard for their customers, but don’t just take his word for it, head to Bridge Cafe to taste the difference for yourself.

The Bridge Cafe is located at 650 W. State Street, Boise, Idaho. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday – Friday.

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Employee Spotlight: Cherie Norris and Kathy Schofield

By Taylor Walker, Public Information Specialist, Idaho Commerce

This summer, the Idaho Commerce office got a little bit brighter with the addition of two new employees, Cherie Norris and Kathy Schofield.

Cherie Norris (left) and Kathy Schofield (right)

Cherie Norris, Grants and Contracts Analyst
As an Idaho Commerce grants and contracts analyst, Cherie is responsible for reviewing grants, ensuring their terms are met, and verifying that funds are used in alignment with statutes and regulations. The bulk of her time is spent working with our Idaho Tourism team.

“It’s something different from the grants I reviewed in past jobs,” said Cherie. “It’s work with a fun focus.”

Previously, Cherie performed similar roles with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho Housing.

Cherie has two daughters, both University of Idaho graduates, and two dogs. She likes to spend her free time scrapbooking, knitting, cross-stitching and people watching.

Kathy Schofield, Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants are the glue of any office, and Kathy is no exception. After realizing how much she missed interacting with people throughout the day, Kathy came out of retirement to join the Idaho Commerce team.

“I love promoting this amazing state we have the honor of being a part of,” said Kathy. “Living, playing and growing.”

Kathy has two sons, one daughter, 11 grandchildren and two dogs. Her garden is full of greens and she enjoys quilting, puzzles and any activity that keeps her connected to her family.

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Age of Agility: The Governor’s Conference on the Future of Work

by Eric Forsch, Business Retention & Expansion Manager, Idaho Commerce

Early in the mid-morning sessions at the Age of Agility Conference, the audience was shown a video of a Boston Dynamics robot successfully landing a back flip. What stood out wasn’t the mere shock at watching a robot do something many humans cannot do, nor the rapid acceleration of technological change, but that the robot learned this behavior on its own after trial and error and can teach other robots to complete the task was astonishing.

Robots are not going to replace human workers anytime soon. By all accounts, technological advances will create new jobs and allow people to become more productive. Many companies we have talked to are excited about automation, not because they want to replace workers, but because they want to keep the people they have and increase productivity.

Being ready for this future was the focal point of the conference. Starting with elementary schools, we need to empower teachers, communities, and parents to prepare children for the work of tomorrow. STEM jobs, research and technology, coding are vital for this future and it is crucial we allow our education systems to adapt, especially to a future that is changing so quickly.

Additionally, companies must be agile. It took sixty years for the telephone to be present in more than 80% of US households, but it took the cell phone less than fifteen. What this means for companies is they need to be nimble to succeed. Michael Simpson, President of PAIRIN, noted how his former employer Novell was great at developing new technology, but poor at getting customers to buy it, which serves as a lesson for communities, businesses, and workers of today.

The future is unknown, but for Idaho to continue to lead the nation in job and wage growth, we must continue to adapt and develop our workforce to meet future business needs. For more information on the Idaho Workforce Development Council’s work-based learning initiatives, get started at


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Opportunity Zones Update

With the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the words “Opportunity Zones” have become very popular and promising in the world of economic development. At Idaho Commerce, we have received a number of questions from investors and communities alike wanting to learn more about the program, better understand how to get involved, and strategize on how to best use the tool to benefit Idaho’s economy.

While there is still quite a bit we don’t know yet, below is a brief update on what we do know about Opportunity Zones and Opportunity Funds at this point. As more information becomes available, Idaho Commerce will be a resource to help communities and investors partner to utilize the program successfully in Idaho.

Idaho Opportunity Zones

Idaho Commerce received 59 applications from Idaho counties, cities and tribes to be designated federal Opportunity Zones. Applications were reviewed by the Idaho Economic Advisory Council (EAC) for recommendation to Governor Otter. On April 9th, 2018, the U.S. Treasury officially certified the Governor’s nomination of the 28 low-income census tracts to become Opportunity Zones in Idaho.

A map of Idaho and other US Opportunity Zones may be found here.

What do we know about Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones are a new tax incentive created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Investors who invest in Opportunity Zones (designated low-income U.S. Census tracks) may receive deferrals and reductions in federal capital gains taxes.

The longer the Opportunity Zone investment is held, the greater the benefits. Investments must be through a Qualified Opportunity Fund which can be established by individuals, trusts, partnerships and S corporations. At least 90% of an Opportunity Fund investment must be physically located in an Opportunity Zone.

Opportunity Funds are self-certifying, meaning that they do not require the pre-approval of state or federal regulators. Any type of appreciable investment ranging from real estate to venture capital may be eligible for the incentive. 1031 exchanges may be rolled into a Qualified Opportunity Fund provided that the investment substantially improves the Opportunity Zone property within 30 months.

Opportunity Zone benefits may be bundled with other state and federal incentives.

What we don’t know

The U.S. Department of Treasury has not issued final guidelines and forms for Opportunity Zone investors. We anticipate those guidelines will be announced sometime this Fall. Idaho Commerce is working with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to promote Idaho’s Opportunity Zones and connect communities and investors with the latest information.

Who can I contact to find out more information on Opportunity Zones

Idaho Commerce is closely monitoring the final guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury and will continue to update our partners throughout the State. Staff has participated in several webinars and meetings regarding other states efforts to better understand what is expected once the guidelines are finalized. Please feel free to contact Jerry Miller (208-287-0780) at Idaho Commerce with any questions related to Opportunity Zones.

For additional Opportunity Zone information, please visit these resources:

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CNBC Ranks Idaho One of America’s Top States for Business 2018

Choosing where to do business is a big decision. From workforce to costs of doing business, infrastructure to economic health – there are many factors that come into play and many of these elements vary widely from state to state. With so many options and locations to consider – 50 to be exact – what are the elements that make a state a good place to do business?

Each year, CNBC releases a data-driven report detailing the economic climate of all 50 U.S. states. To reach this conclusion, CNBC begins by scoring each state on 64 metrics within 10 categories: workforce, infrastructure, cost of doing business, economy, quality of life, technology and innovation, education, business friendliness, access to capital, and cost of living. Next, CNBC analyzes each state’s economic development marketing materials, then assigns weight to the qualities a state communicates as a strong selling points for business. Learn more about the categories and methodology here.

This year, Idaho ranked 11 overall with a total score of 1496. Our state improved in all 10 categories since 2017, where Idaho landed 20 overall.

Idaho received the most points based on our strengths in cost of doing business, business friendliness and economy, followed closely by cost of living and quality of life.

Cost of Doing Business
Cost is undoubtedly top of mind for companies considering where to do business. Key factors that companies consider include a state’s tax climate, tax incentives, and utility and real estate costs.

Companies that choose to do business in Idaho benefit from low operating costs and the lowest per capita tax burden of any other state. Our top corporate tax rate and top individual income tax rate is 6.925 percent. In addition, qualifying companies reap the benefits of a variety of state-sponsored tax incentives, property tax exemptions, and workforce training grants.

Business Friendliness
In Idaho, we choose to stand besides businesses rather than in their way. We don’t see the need to put restrictions and requirements in place that will slow companies down. Instead, we want companies to work hard and focus on growth and success. We strive to be a partner in helping companies access the people and information necessary to get things done and get down to business.

Idaho’s Rapid Response Team is just one example of our efforts to be a quick and collaborative partner for companies. This team includes representatives from ten of Idaho’s state departments that proactively engage with companies to communicate regulatory requirements and help companies quickly secure permits, discuss infrastructure needs, and uncover opportunities for grants and incentives.

It’s obvious – a healthy, diverse economy is important, especially for business. Idaho boasts one of the strongest economies in the nation.

Our state budget is balanced, our tax structure is stable, and we have zero state debt. We don’t defer taxes in one business category while increasing taxes in another. Our unemployment rate is low and we’re leading the pack in job creation and growth.

Idaho also has a small and accessible government. Businesses are able to access decision makers and leaders in a variety of industries and sectors. We value relationships and connection in Idaho and recognize the value the ability for a new or expanding business to meet with the people and partners that, in the end, make our state stronger as a whole.

In celebrating our strengths, we must recognize there will always be room for improvement.  This recognition lends the opportunity for businesses, decision-makers and community members across Idaho to seek out ways to take steps forward toward creating a stronger, healthier Idaho for tomorrow.


Company Spotlight: Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc.

Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. has served the ski industry for over 40 years. Growing up with many of the ski resorts we know and love, CEO Gunther Williams and team build chair lift seat and tower padding, covers for tubes used on tubing hills, and recently added military and law enforcement training gear to their product offering.

The team at Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. is passionate about working in the ski industry but even more passionate about providing good local jobs and wages that benefit their community and the economy. Employees are family and providing an enjoyable work environment is a top priority for Gunther and team.

With the belief that when everyone enjoys where they are working, the products produced are top notch and customers are happiest. This in turn provides the business an opportunity to reinvest in making the lives of employees and community even better. To this end, along with a robust focus on the organization’s culture, Gunther and team recently launched an innovative productivity experiment.

Gunther wanted to test if productivity could be increased by focusing on production needed and not hours working. The team shifted to a 5-hour workday and uses the timeframe as a benchmark to indicate if there are production issues in need of addressing.

So far, the experiment has been a success. Production is up, and employee satisfaction is up. By limiting unproductive time and focusing on production requirements, employees are producing more and getting more time outside the office to enjoy family, friends and activities they love.

It’s this innovative and inventive spirit that keeps Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. growing in the ever-competitive ski industry and leading the way in employee production and satisfaction. The next time you’re getting some turns in on your favorite ski hill, be on the lookout for Idaho Sewing for Sport, Inc. products!


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Tariff Exclusion Information

As of July 6, 2018, the U.S. is imposing additional 25 percent tariffs on 818 tariff items from China with a trade value of approximately $34 billion.

Simultaneously, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced a process to obtain product exclusions from the additional tariffs. The request period will end October 9, 2018. If you want to learn more and would like to file a request, please visit their website.

The Idaho Department of Commerce has a team dedicated to international business. If you have any questions or comments concerning the imposed tariffs or trade, please contact Jennifer Verdon via email or 208-287-3165.

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CDBG Spotlight: Nezperce and Grangeville


City of Nezperce – Finished construction of a new 9,475 square foot, five bay, regional emergency services facility. This project is a collaborative effort between the City of Nezperce Fire Department, Nezperce Rural Fire District, and Nezperce Ambulance Inc. The facility will house all equipment, supplies, office space for records, training space, kitchen, restrooms/showers, and sleeping quarters.



City of Grangeville – Completed new construction of a 4,300 square foot Kids Klub youth facility originally opened in 1996. Kids Klub, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, provides programs consisting primarily of K-6 afterschool care, pre-school instruction, and summer camps for children.

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Community Spotlight: Jerome

MAGIC VALLEY QUALITY MILK PROCUCERS (MVQMP) (1756 S. Buchanan St, Jerome) began construction of its $20 million expansion project this spring, and is expected to create 12-15 new jobs.  Designed by Power Engineers and Dairy Industry Consultants with Petersen Bros. as their contractors, the target completion date is Spring 2019.

MVQMP was founded more than 20 years ago as a milk marketing cooperative.  Now, they are expanding in to processing milk into finished retail and food service products, specifically condensed milk, condensed skim milk, and cream. The project will involve constructing a two-truck bay milk receiving building, a group of silos, and expansion of existing site utility services.

The City of Jerome was awarded a $250,000 Rural Community Development Block grant for road improvements adjacent to the plant.



Photo: KMVT

COMMERCIAL CREAMERY (218 S Birch St, Jerome) broke ground on the construction of its new dryer and warehouse facility on April 19, 2018.  This $6 million project is Phase I of a four-phase expansion plan. With Starr Corporation as their contractor the project is set for completion before Spring 2019.

Commercial Creamery makes cheese powders and creates the ingredients needed to produce a variety of foods, including unique snack seasonings, and rice and pasta dishes. Commercial Creamery Company serves clients in more than 30 counties around the world.

This project is funded in part by the City of Jerome’s Urban Renewal Agency (URA) for infrastructure.



MR. GAS TRAVEL CENTER (1223 W. Main St, Jerome County) opened for business on May 15, 2018, and is one of the largest truck stops in the U.S. This is a $6 million project and will employ 25 part- and full-time staff. The facility sits on 15 acres of land and will include 16 gas lanes and diesel pumps, plenty of passenger vehicle parking, and 165 semi-truck parking spaces. The Center will also have a convenience store and upscale restrooms and shower facilities.

The City of Jerome will benefit by the 2,000-foot extension of their water and sewer service all the way to the Center. It is referred to as a “gateway” project to open the west end of Jerome for improved commercial opportunities.

The project received a $50,000 Gem Grant from Idaho Commerce.

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Welcome! Jason Barnes

We have another new face at Commerce!

Jason Barnes, Business Attraction Specialist

Another transplant to Idaho, Mr. Barnes left Ventura County California to join the Gem State in July 2017. He has a B.A. in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands and a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University. Mr. Barnes has served as Congresswoman Brownley’s Field Representative where he handled all community and public affairs in her district. Prior to join the Idaho Commerce team, Jason served as the Journal Clerk to the Idaho State Senate during their 2018 legislative session.


One of Mr. Barnes’s passions in life is giving his free time to the YMCA Summer Camp Program. Every summer for the past 10 years, Jason has been a volunteer camp director working with kids to build their character, and act as a positive role-model.

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